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What was the point of having the 'xenophobic rant?'

June 16, 2010 - I read C.J. Carnacchio's column titled "China? Capitalist? Ha, ha" with a certain amount of puzzlement. Was there a point to this xenophobic rant about China? It appeared to be some sort of personal vendetta you have with Superintendent Dr. William Skilling. Or did this have something to do with offering Chinese language classes in the Oxford School District?

I think there are excellent reasons to teach Chinese in school, and the fact that China, with a population of 1.3 billion people, represents 19% of the world's population, is only part of it. According to the CIA World Factbook, China ranks #1 as having the world's fastest-growing economy by gross domestic product in the world, with a rate of 10%. Where does the U.S. fall? Uh, 151st, with a growth rate of... -2.4%. Hello China, would you like to buy some of our stuff? You've got the money. If you buy more of our stuff, we'll put more of our people back to work.

But let's bring it home. Let's think of a local company that would not be in business without the Chinese market. Let's see, how far do I have to go... Buick. Yeah, Buick, the stodgy old division of General Motors that the company has considered putting on the chopping block since 2005 because of dismal U.S. sales. But when GM closed product lines last year they kept Buick. Why? Because General Motors sold 876,00 cars in China in 2006 and 35% of those were Buicks. Buicks sell like crazy in China. To quote Chris Shunk, from a June 22, 2009 report on Autoblog.com: "It took General Motors eight years to sell one million Buicks in China, but the second million came in only three."

I took a closer look at the figures you cited in your piece as well. You put a lot of credence in the Index of Economic Freedom. China, it reports, is listed as 140th. The U.S. is ranked as #8. (Did you leap around your office pumping your fist in the air shouting "We're #8! We're #8!"?

It's an interesting list, though. Who's #1, Mr. Carnacchio? Who, according to this source you rely upon so strongly in your column, is ranked as having the most economic freedom? Well... Hong Kong.

Yes, Hong Kong. One of two special administrative regions of the People's Republic of China (the other is Macau). The two primary languages in Hong Kong? English and Chinese.

So I wonder. Aside from your apparent xenophobia (it's a big word, I know, but it means "an uncontrollable fear of foreigners"), I'm not sure what your issue with China is. Are there reasons not to teach Chinese in schools? Well, maybe. But it's certainly not because it's an esoteric language that nobody speaks. It's certainly not because there will be no potential business and work opportunities for students fluent in Mandarin or Cantonese.

Do I think China is a wonderful place? Beats me, haven't been there. I do have a friend who graduated from high school in Lapeer who is now the president of a company with a factory in Shanghai and I'm fairly certain he wishes he spoke Chinese. (Or perhaps Spanish. One of their factories is in Mexico). Their human rights record is dismal. They are essentially a communist country with a government that routinely cracks down on freedoms we in the U.S. have taken for granted for over 200 years. But turning our backs on them, ignoring them, or pretending that they are soon going to have a middle class larger than the entire population of the U.S. seems shortsighted and downright dangerous. Besides ... if I were running an international corporation and two potential employees came to me and one spoke fluent Mandarin and one didn't, I'm pretty sure, all things being equal, I'd hire the one who spoke Mandarin.

Mark Terry


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